Thornspellby Helen Lowe
Prince Sigismund has grown up hearing fantastical stories about enchantments and faie spells, basilisks and dragons, knights-errant and heroic quests. He'd love for them to be
Helen Lowe reimagines the Sleeping Beauty story from the point of view of the prince who is destined to wake the enchanted princess in this lush, romantic fantasy-adventure.
Prince Sigismund has grown up hearing fantastical stories about enchantments and faie spells, basilisks and dragons, knights-errant and heroic quests. He'd love for them to be true—he's been sheltered in a country castle for most of his life and longs for adventure—but they are just stories. Or are they?
From the day that a mysterious lady in a fine carriage speaks to him through the castle gates, Sigismund's world starts to shift. He begins to dream of a girl wrapped, trapped, in thorns. He dreams of a palace, utterly still, waiting. He dreams of a man in red armor, riding a red horse—and then suddenly that man arrives at the castle!
Sigismund is about to learn that sometimes dreams are true, that the world is both more magical and more dangerous than he imagined, and that the heroic quest he imagined for himself as a boy . . . begins now.
From the Hardcover edition.
After his mother's death, Prince Sigismund, 14, is sequestered in a remote castle for his own protection. He dreams of knights-errant and quests, but knows that as the only heir to the kingdom, it's unlikely that he can pursue them. However, he soon learns that magic is real-and is a threat to his life and his kingdom. The legend of a princess who's been sleeping for 100 years is true, and Sigismund may be the one who can break the spell. With help from his magical paladin teacher, Balisan, Sigismund develops his own fighting and magical skills while dealing with palace intrigues and threats from a powerful faie sorceress, the Margravine zu Malvolin. While she is truly malevolent, Sigismund finds a group of magical allies, including the faie who had cast the spell, and a silent girl he names Rue. A daring quest of his own brings all of Sigismund's skills into play as he confronts danger and magic to find love and save his kingdom. Lowe brings the fairy tale to life, adding both complexity and a believable hero, as well as an Aurora who's more than just a "sleeping beauty." This is a fun retelling with much to offer readers.-Beth L. Meister, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, WI
"The charming modifications hang together nicely with the traditional elements of the story, and romance readers as well as fairy-tale aficionados will delight in this deft handling of the tale." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This reimagining of 'Sleeping Beauty' follows the prince as he develops from a wistful little boy who longs for his stern father's approval into the worthy hero he is destined to be." —Booklist
- Random House Children's Books
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- Age Range:
- 9 - 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
The Silent Wood
A boy was lying on his stomach on the topmost tower of a small, square castle, basking like a lizard in the sun. There was a book open on the lichened stone in front of him, and one slightly grubby finger traced the illuminations on the page. Neither he nor the book was supposed to be there at all, but he had slipped away from his many guardians to lose himself in the enchanted world of Parsifal and the Grail quest. When he was done with reading, he would simply doze on in the warm afternoon sun or look out, lofty as a falcon, over the world that surrounded the castle.
Even from the high tower it was a small enough world, for the castle, the gardens, and the parkland that surrounded it were contained by a high stone wall. The wall snaked for miles between the park and the white dusty road, and even the local village lay inside the great wrought-iron gates.
Sigismund, for that was the boy's name, couldn't remember the gates opening since the day his father had first brought him to the castle, several years before. He supposed they must open sometimes to let his father's couriers pass, and the merchants who brought luxuries from the capital, but he had never seen it happen, not even when he raced to the top of the tower to watch a departing caravan. There was always something that distracted his attention at the critical moment--or the dust in summer, or snow of winter, would be too thick for him to see the gate at all.
Sigismund could lie for hours watching the road and imagining the long leagues to the capital, with all the towns and great houses, woods and fields, along its length. He would daydream of the adventures that might befall a traveler along the way, for there were still tales told of both faie and ogres dwelling in these remoter provinces. Sigismund's tutor, Master Griff, might look down his nose at such tales, but Sir Andreas, the castle steward, would shake his head and say that you couldn't take anything for granted, not in this country. Sir Andreas himself would never say more, but Wenceslas, who worked in the stable and was a particular friend of Sigismund's, said that Sir Andreas's own father had been killed fighting ogres. He too had been the King's steward and led his men against the ogres when they began killing travelers and raiding outlying farms.
This story always gave Sigismund a shiver down his spine, because it was both exciting and sad at the same time. He liked to imagine riding out in the same way when he was older, protecting the people from outlaws and monsters, except that in these daydreams Sigismund always overcame his opponents and set any wrongs done to right. His favorite dream, however, was of the day when his father would come riding back from the endless rebellions and outright wars in the southern provinces. Then, thought Sigismund, his eyes half shut against the sun's glare, they would go adventuring together--perhaps along the fabled Spice Road and into the Uttermost East, where dragons flew like silken banners in the noonday sky and men spoke in strange tongues.
He didn't like to think about what would happen if his father never came back, if he was killed fighting in the south. Sigismund supposed that he would have to return to the capital if that happened and be crowned king in his turn, although he would much rather ride out alone, like Parsifal on the Grail quest. I could be a knight-errant, he thought, and make my own way in the world, as princes used to do in the high days of King Arthur--or the Emperor Charlemagne, when Roland held the pass at Roncesvalles.
"But not crown princes," Master Griff had said on the one occasion when Sigismund voiced this dream aloud. "You'll find that was only younger sons, even then. The oldest son still had to be responsible and mind the kingdom."
Thoughts of princes-errant and the Grail quest drew Sigismund's eyes away from the eastern road to the great Wood that stretched for league on tree-tossed league into the west. Every sort of tale was told about that Wood: that it was the home of witches and of faie who would lure the unwary down into their hollow hills. Some stories even said there was a castle hidden deep in the forest, although there were as many tales as there were trees when it came to the nature of the occupant.
One story, usually told in whispers, claimed that the hidden castle was the seat of a powerful sorcerer, another that it belonged to the Queen of the Faie, She-of-the-Green-Gold-Sleeves. There were other tales again that made it a lair of dragons, or basilisks, or trolls that munched on the bones of men. Sigismund had asked Master Griff for the truth of it, but his tutor had shaken his head.
"Trolls that munch the bones of men! You're getting too old for such stories, Sigismund." He had squinted out the library window into the enclosed garden below. "All that is known for certain is that your great-grandfather placed an interdict on the Wood, forbidding anyone to go there. But the reason for the ban was never set down, and now even your father's council seems to have forgotten why." He shrugged. "Yet from what Sir Andreas says, no one in these parts has ever broken it."
Sigismund wondered whether this meant that something particularly bad had happened in the Wood during his great-grandfather's time, so bad that no one wanted to go there anyway. The old western gate into the castle was long since walled up, but there was still a remnant of a road that must have run into the forest once. It was little more than two rutted and stony wheel tracks now, but Sigismund had followed it one day, making his escape from the castle by means of a mossy channel that had once been the moat, and a culvert under the outer wall. The road did not go far, petering out into a bridle path within a few hundred yards of the castle wall, and fading away altogether beneath the forest eave.
It had been very dark and quiet beneath the canopy, a heavy, listening silence. There was no call of bird or insect, no whisper of a falling leaf--not even the wind stirred. Sigismund had felt the fine hairs lifting along his forearms and up the back of his neck, and taken a step back.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Helen Lowe won the inaugural Robbie Burns National Poetry Award in 2003 and was the recipient of a New Zealand Society of Authors/Creative New Zealand award for emerging writer. For Thornspell, she received the Sir Julius Vogel Award for best young adult novel. She received a second Vogel Award as best new talent in the fantasy field.
In addition to her writing life, Helen has a second-dan black belt in aikido and represented her university in the sport of fencing. She lives in a ninety-year-old house with a woodland garden in Christchurch, New Zealand, which she shares with her partner, Andrew, and two cats.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book grabbed me from the start. I loved the way the characters grew throughout the story. Sigismund is a real hero prince, and yet manages to be a real person, with real problems to solve. And not all the solutions turn out to be simple! This is a book that manages some surprising depths, and yet remains an accessible and thoroughly enjoyable read.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2008:
¿A quiet hero anchors this nicely crafted blend of fairy tale and dreamscape. A narrative that begins as an exploration of fairy-tale archetypes moves into very human and nevertheless magical drama. Thoughtful and understated.¿
The Bulletin of the Center for Children¿s Books, July/August 2008:
¿This ¿Sleeping Beauty¿ retelling skillfully expands the basic story. Romance readers as well as fairy-tale aficionados will delight in this deft handling of the tale.¿
Booklist, November 1, 2008:
¿This reimagining of ¿Sleeping Beauty¿ follows the prince as he develops from a wistful little boy into the worthy hero he is destined to be. This version fittingly has more swordplay and dangerous escapades than romance, but it still ends happily ever after.¿
Prince Sigismund has grown up sheltered and protected while his father's kingdom is at war. He has fallen in love with all the stories of enchanted creatures and heroes rescuing princesses. Then one day it all becomes real. A not-so-chance encounter with a sorceress sets events in motion that will change his life forever. Hearing the tale of Sleeping Beauty from the prince's point of view was fantastic. He wasn't a hero, but had to learn how to be one. With several teachers to help him along the way, he must face powers that he could never imagine, even after reading all the old tales. He finds himself drawn to the enchanted forest, a place that is forbidden to all. When he discovers that his dreams of a princess trapped in the forest are all real, he knows what his destiny is. Sigismund is not perfect, and this is one of the many things that makes the story so good. He is trustworthy to a fault and has to learn that not everyone is what they seem to be. Caught up in events that seem to be spinning out of control, and taken away to fantastic realms that are not his, he learns the lessons and skills that it will take to save the princess. The resolution had everything you ask for in a fairy tale, along with a few extra surprises thrown in to keep things a little interesting.